Investigation of phagotrophy in natural assemblages of the benthic dinoflagellates Ostreopsis, Prorocentrum and Coolia

<div><p>Abstract Mixotrophy has been shown to be a common trait among dinoflagellates and its importance in the nutritional ecology of harmful algae has been hypothesized. Benthic harmful species have not been extensively investigated as their planktonic counterparts and there are major gaps in the knowledge of their nutritional strategies. In this study the occurrence of phagotrophy was investigated in natural assemblages of benthic dinoflagellates using epi-fluorescence microscopy with DAPI and LysoSensor staining. The study was conducted at five sites along the coast of Rio de Janeiro that were visited in January, August and December 2010. In total, 1659 dinoflagellate cells were observed. From these, only 0.4% of 1195 Ostreopsis cf. ovata and 2.2% of 134 Coolia spp. cells presented evidence of phagotrophy with vacuoles stained by LysoSensor or a DAPI (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) stained inclusion. Stained vacuoles were not registered in the 330 Prorocentrum spp. cells observed. Few O. cf. ovata cells contained round red inclusions ("red spots") that were not stained either by DAPI or LysoSensor, suggesting that these structures are not ingested prey. The results showed that phagotrophy was not a frequent nutritional strategy in benthic dinoflagellates during the study period.</p></div>